One of the best things (in my opinion) about being Jewish is we don’t have all the answers. Like, ever. My rabbi, who taught the class in Jewish Studies at UCLA, once said, “Other religions stand on the street corner and claim to have all the answers. Judaism stands on the street corner and says, ‘We’ve got questions!’”
So when I learned about HODS.org (Halachic Organ Donor Society), I was astounded. HODS is an organ donor society organized and supported by Orthodox rabbis and Orthodox people.
You see, I always thought Orthodox people couldn’t donate organs. It was one of those “You can’t be buried in a Jewish cemetery if you have a tattoo” urban myths. In my family, one of my cousins donated a kidney to his sister, but they aren’t from the religious branch of my family, so I had never even considered that it might be OK to do it if you were religious.
I always wanted to be an organ donor, but I thought it wasn’t allowed for religious people. I had heard murmurings of, “Oh, there are exceptions,” but to be quite honest, sometimes when you hear people say stuff like that about religious Jewish law, I kind of feel like, “You mean if you’re a 75-year-old male rabbi that people will listen to and you appeal to some court in Jerusalem, maybe…” I felt like there must be some loophole to the loophole, and I thought it simply wasn’t allowed.
Well, apparently that’s not true! Turns out, you CAN donate organs if you are Orthodox, and you can still be buried in an Orthodox cemetery and have the tahara performed (this is the ritual washing of the body which is done before burial).
So, if organs are used to expressly and immediately save a life, it is “kosher” to donate them. HODS.org has all of this information and more. They have a “halachic donor card” you can carry with you, which is different from checking the box when you apply for a driver’s license. Their card has language that this expressly confirms with halacha (Jewish law), such as stating that minimum damage should be done to the cadaver and utmost respect should be given to the body during the recovery process.
Now, I am sure there are those among you who might think Jews only want to save Jews with their organs, but that’s not at all what this is about! You see, the distinctions for halachic preparation of organs is for the donor; so that the donor’s body be treated in line with Jewish custom.The HOD Society simply encourages Jews to donate organs to the general list where all of humanity, regardless of ethnic or religious background, will benefit.
If you are already an organ donor, bless you. And if you want to learn more about organ donation, and in particular, about organ donation in line with Jewish law, visit www.HODS.org and learn more.
Check out this video which totally made me cry: